by Julian Spivey
I’m sure when television productions were shut down in mid-March due to the Covid-19 pandemic that shows in their first season that hadn’t yet wrapped for the summer were the ones most affected, after all the way a freshman season wraps could be the difference between renewal or cancellation.
The cast and crew of CBS’ freshman legal drama “All Rise” didn’t want the season to end without a proper finale and decided to do a virtual episode in which the cast members all filmed using their phones and computers to give viewers a an episode that very closely mirrored the quarantine feeling the nation has been under for almost two months now.
In the season one finale “Dancing at Los Angeles,” written by series creator Greg Spottiswood with Gregory Nelson, there is a backlog of court cases due to Covid-19 with arrests still being made, despite much of the city coming to a standstill because of the pandemic. Judge Lisa Benner (Marg Helgenberger) confers with her fellow judges on how the legal system should proceed and the show’s lead Judge Lola Carmichael (Simone Missick) offers to be a guinea pig by doing a virtual bench trial.
The case involves two brothers in a domestic dispute over a car that leads to one of them in jail and stuck there due to the pandemic slowing the legal process. Ultimately, it’s not one of the most interesting cases of the first season by far, but the real appeal of this episode is how it’s done, more so than what the story tells.
Probably the best part of the episode is how we get to see Judge Carmichael in the same courtroom (albeit it a virtual one) with her best friend and Deputy District Attorney Mark Callan (Wilson Bethel), a moment I’m sure most viewers of “All Rise” have been dying to see all season, but under normal circumstances would never take place due to conflict of interest and as Lola says at the episode’s end will never happen again.
“All Rise” while handling plots and episodes in a typical CBS procedural fashion has done an amazing job at character building in its first season with warm performances from the actors making us care for every one of them greatly and having a nice camaraderie with each other – even in the case of Callan and public defender Emily Lopez (Jessica Camacho), who are frequently against each other in court (as in this finale episode). I was amazed how effortlessly this camaraderie between cast members came through via Zoom calls and FaceTimes.
I’m always willing to give a pass for those who try their hardest, and even as I previously mentioned the storyline for this episode wasn’t the most entertaining, it was honestly hard for it to be given the circumstances, it’s clear that the entirety of “All Rise” gave their all to get this episode out for its fans and that means an awful lot. Hopefully the effort is rewarded by CBS giving this show a second season.